Love, Inc by Yvonne Collins & Sally Rideout 2011
Hyperion/Disney Book Group
IQ "Relationships are like sports. If you want to compete, you have to keep in shape." Kali pg. 235
Zahra, Kali and Syd meet in therapy. Their therapy group is for the children of divorcees. Even though all the teens in the group would quickly tell you that it's their parents who need to be in therapy not them, the girls ignore the cheesiness of therapy and reluctantly become friends after a scavenger hunt throws them together. It doesn't hurt that they discover they all dated the same guy who went by a different name. Erick aka Rico aka Rick. The girls create a plan for sweet revenge and payback feels awesome. In fact their plan was so good that other teens start approaching them for help on various matters of heart whether it's breaking up with someone, matchmaking, making up or exacting revenge. Love, Inc is born and business is booming. If only the three girls could practice what they preach.
This is my second (first) Collins & Rideout novel and once again the theme here is girl-who-complains-about-not-being-very-pretty and yet she manages to get ALL THE GUYS. It's completely baffling because it's not even as if she suddenly became more confident and therefore more guys start to sit up and take notice of her. I couldn't help but roll my eyes every time a new guy began flirting with her and/or asked her out because hey she was supposed to be mousy and nothing 'special'. And *SPOILER: highlight to read* Do couples really give one week anniversary presents? That's a bit much to me, but that could just be because I don't really keep track of anniversaries. *End of Spoiler*The other thing that really bothered me was the age of the girls. They were sophomores, Zahra was fifteen but they acted like they were juniors or seniors. It just didn't make sense to me that girls so young would have gone threw almost every single relationship problem one can experience in high school. I was really skeptical as to how well Kali's matchmaking formula worked that was the only part of the business that seemed highly implausible to me. Granted there are people who love to match make (hello Emma) but that doesn't mean they are always going to be good at it. Kali's system wasn't always perfect which I liked but it was a very vague process as to how exactly she calculated their compatibility.
Surprisingly this was one book I didn't mind not having the perspectives of all the main characters. Zahra best describes the three girls' personalities "Kali bubbles over with options, so if she were in charge of mediation, no one would stay together long. She's a 'grass is always greener' type, I'm a 'look how green this grass is' type, and Syd's a 'torch the lawn' type. The balance works for us" (pg. 263), and they become fully vibrant characters through her narration. Syd and Kali's stories were fully explored, I finished the book feeling as though I fully understood each of the three girls as well as the minor characters. It's a long book and sometimes I would put it down and forget to pick it back up but I never felt lost upon resuming it and the pace was good. The story is highly entertaining, the methods of revenge are mostly realistic and quite impressive in how easily they could be replicated in real life as are the other aspects of the business except for the matchmaking. The meditation process made a lot of sense, sometimes all relationships need is a person in the middle to help bring them to their senses. And as harsh as the break up service seemed, sometimes it was handled better than what the other person might have done.
Love, Inc is a diverting read that isn't sickeningly sick, instead it's the right mix of lighthearted fun combined with accessible, genuine lessons about crushes and relationships. A bonus was the fact that Zahra was half Pakistani but her heritage wasn't the center of the plot, instead it focused on her relationship business that she started with Syd and Kali. She does complain a lot about her Scottish red hair and not feeling like a fully fledged MOT (Member of the Tribe) but she worries that her mother's parents who are visiting from Pakistan want to keep her newly separated parents apart permanently. Therefore she does everything in her power to resist her grandparents efforts to make her fully embrace her heritage, she doesn't want it to seem like shes betraying her dad's heritage and giving up on their marriage. I also loved how the setting of Austin, Texas was like a fourth main character which I love especially because I know little about Texas. Austin sounds like a vibrant, entertaining and artful city. I definitely recommend this story for the summer, not too heavy but not too light and if you liked John Tucker Must Die, you will really like this book.
Disclosure: Received from Yan, thank you so much!
PS This quote amused me and also gave me something to think about
"'You're getting brainwashed and you don't even know it. Pretty soon they'll have you wrapped up in a sari and on a plane to Karachi. They'll marry you off to the first old guy who offers a decent dowry.'
'Zahra! You're like a racist or something.' [Saliyah-Zahra's sister]
'It's not racism when you're mocking your own culture'" (pg. 133). Hmm is it or isn't it? I'm inclined to agree with her but I'm not 100% sure how I feel about mocking your own culture. Especially because someone will inevitably complain that that's 'not fair'.